What is the festival of Diwali?
- 13 November 2012
Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is the most popular of all the festivals from South Asia. It is also the occasion for celebrations by Jains and Sikhs as well as Hindus.
The word Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word dipavali, meaning "rows of lighted lamps" - houses, shops and public places are decorated with small oil lamps called diyas.
There are also loads of fireworks and sweets too, so it's really popular with children.
What's it all about?
Hindus celebrate the return of deities Rama and Sita to Ayodhya after their 14-year exile. They also celebrate the day Mother Goddess Durga destroyed a demon called Mahisha.
Sikhs particularly celebrate the release from prison of the sixth guru, Hargobind Singh in 1619. But Sikhs celebrated the festival before this date. In fact, the foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the most holy place in the Sikh world, was laid on Diwali in 1577.
The founder of Janism is Lord Mahavira. During Diwali, Jains celebrate the moment he reached a state called Moksha (Nirvana, or eternal bliss).
- Countless lights and oil lamps are lit on the streets and in houses
- People visit their relations and have feasts
- Fireworks and festivities are an essential part of the occasion
- Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, is worshipped as the bringer of blessings for the new year
When is it?
The festival is usually some time between October and November. In 2014 it's officially on 23 October but many people have started the celebrations well in advance.